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Storify Co-Founder implies nothing on Facebook is private

It has been uncovered that private Facebook status updates and secret group updates can be shared publicly through the Storify app, and the company’s Co-Founder has spoken out, asserting that nothing on Facebook is private.

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storify cofounder burt herman

storify cofounder burt herman

Facebook privacy settings said to be bypassed by Storify app

Late Thursday, AGBeat broke the story that through the Storify app, users can bypass privacy settings and publicly share Facebook status updates from private users as well as from within private groups. The story has technologists and laypeople alike considering the value of online privacy, some asking if the ability to publish private statuses crosses a line. We initially pointed out that private Twitter accounts cannot be “Storified,” but private Facebook updates could, in an effort to illustrate that the app has the ability to protect private status updates on another social network.

We also initially pointed out that this situation, regardless of fault, is a great reminder that there really is no such thing as privacy, that anything can be screenshot, but many have asserted publicly that the Storify app allows users to inadvertently share private status updates without permission from the original user, nor from a user marked as private.

“Screenshots are malicious. This can happen by accident. That’s the difference,” said Marc Lefton, who is known as a business network pioneer for his founding of Adholes.com, and is a partner at Half Fiction.

Facebook is now investigating

A Facebook spokesperson told Mashable that Storify is not getting any of the data through Facebook’s APIs, likening the process to a screenshot.

Meanwhile, another Facebook spokesperson told The New York Times that the social media giant is now investigating how to solve the problem, explaining that the browser extension allows a user leto intercept the message posted on Facebook and add it to Storify.

According to the Facebook Data Use Policy, information that is always publicly available includes a user’s name, profile pictures and cover photos, network, gender, username, and user ID. In that list of data points, status updates are not included, leaving some to question whether people who have posted status updates that were not deemed public are responsible for having put them on Storify, violating Facebook’s Terms of Service, or if it is the responsibility of Storify to make private information less accessible, like private Twitter accounts which cannot be Storified.

One technologist opined that users could request that Facebook provide more granularity to data sharing, but notes that making that a priority for Facebook is unlikely.

Storify calls it “an etiquette issue”

Storify Co-Founder, Burt Herman commented on the original story, “This isn’t a technology issue as much as an etiquette issue. Now that everyone has the power to easily publish to the whole world, we all need to think about how to use that power.”

Danny Brown, founder of For Bloggers By Bloggers, and author of The Parables of Business asked Herman, “Surely the etiquette should be for technology API’s to respect privacy settings and be unable to let users post private group updates, no?”

“It’s up to you to decide what to share online, and whether to trust the people who can see what you share,” Herman responded, adding on Twitter that “It’s no accident if you decide to publish something – you’re making a deliberate decision.”

Storify says privacy exists only when posting solely to yourself

Former journalist, and General Manager of Social Media at Internet Media Labs, Amy Vernon tweeted, “Things from private groups show up in your newsfeed. When you click on it, you might not realize it’s a private post,” which Herman responded by asking if something is really “private” if you can see it?

Vernon noted, “There have been many times I’ve seen private posts in my newsfeed that have startled me [because] I didn’t realize they were private,” later tweeting, “If you’re in a “private” group, anything you post there shows up in the news feeds of all the other [people] in that group. It’s easy to miss that it’s for that group and not public. The “Storify” link is right next to the “like” link.”

Herman retorted that “If you can see something, how is that “private”? Anyone could easily copy it. Private is posting solely to yourself,” adding that “again, you could easily copy it. It’s up to you as a writer to decide what you feel is appropriate to publish.”

Herman then took to the Storify blog to explain their position. “To clarify, we want to reassure you that Storify does not make anything public that hasn’t been collected by a user and published in a story. Also, Storify users do NOT have access to content on the web that they couldn’t otherwise see themselves.”

“We believe strongly in freedom of expression and democratization of media in the Internet age,” Herman stated. “Anyone can now easily and cheaply publish to the web and reach a global audience. That also means each of us with this power must consider how we use it.”

Web community reacts to Storify’s position

Julie Pippert, Founder and Director of Artful Media Group, responsible for originally unearthing the privacy dilemma said she is “disappointed with the tone and tactic Storify has adopted.”

“I was very emphatic and deliberate in stating we all have a responsibility and need to exercise caution as posters and sharers,” Pippert said of her original statements published on AGBeat. “However, the statement from Storify to “make better friends” is not very productive. Even good friends can make a mistake. A more constructive solution would be smarter and better.”

Marc Girolimetti, Founder of Red Raider Studios, with over 16 years of interactive and software experience said, “They’re focused solely on customer acquisition and not on a sound model, which is a result of a sound vision. If they’re acquired, it’s because somebody wanted the eyeballs, not the product.”

Brown, who was among the first to question the Storify Co-Founder, wrote in depth regarding how he believes Storify misses the point on protecting privacy, asking, “Instead of blaming the user, why doesn’t Storify take the higher road and have a filter/blocker in place (similar to the Twitter scenario) where a message pops up prior to the sharing that asks the simple question: “This content is from a restricted source – are you sure you wish to share?” Or, better still, simply change the way Storify scrapes network API’s and only allow sharing of clearly publicly available content. Of course, to do this would mean admitting Storify (and, by association, Facebook) have a problem. And no-one likes to admit they have a weakness…”

Vernon commented on Brown’s blog that, “I realized [Storify doesn’t] actually care what the privacy status of a post is and placed the onus completely on the user. I’m the first one to tell people that they should assume everything they do online (including private email to only one other person) could be made public. But that doesn’t mean that the tools we use should ignore the privacy settings that exist.”

CEO and Founder of Zoetica, Kami Watson Huyse, a highly regarded 17-year public relations veteran said, “I think the issue here isn’t really technology as much as it is attitude. It is clear that Facebook could restrict private feeds and Storify could choose not to accept any content from private or secret groups if it were using the Facebook API, but to meet the feedback with scorn is a [public relations] faux pas.”

A “legitimate” user concern treated with disrespect

Mickey Gomez, Executive Director at The Volunteer Center Serving Howard County echoed Huyse’s sentiment, stating “I wish the Storify folks had been more responsive and less defensive. Here is an opportunity to engage with users – many of whom legitimately appreciate the platform and use it regularly. They’ve come to Storify with an issue of legitimate concern only to have trite platitudes flung back at them. “Pick better friends.” “Nothing is truly private.” “It’s no worse than a screen shot.” And perhaps the issue is on the Facebook side of the house, but even so, it’s being exploited by a Chrome add-on from Storify.”

“Even if they can’t do anything about it,” Gomez concluded, “acknowledging that it’s a concern to at least some users would be a step in the right direction. Explaining the issues – challenges included – would also be welcomed. Posting with a decidedly defensive tone did them no favors and was a disappointment.”

A commenter called “Serenity” commented on AllFacebook.com, “I’m sad that Storify is taking this approach. You have an opportunity to say, “Hey, wow, thanks for pointing that out. That’s important for users to know and we’ll try to address it.” Instead you go with, “You can publish what you can see, so be careful.” I’ve absolutely raved about your service in the past, but your reaction to this issue – including calling the title of the post “provocative” – runs counter to everything I’ve ever witnessed or learned about responding to criticism.”

The takeaway

Storify is without a doubt, a useful tool that is extremely popular and serves as an unparalleled curation tool, and even if private status updates are added by a user, at least it is public knowledge which individual leaked private status updates from a private user or secret group. Even Pippert continues to sing the free service’s praises.

That said, the vulnerable person whose private status updates are being used publicly was never asked for permission, violating their user rights having entered a private network to share private information privately. If the user is responsible for purposely or inadvertently sharing private information, the least Storify could do is ask “are you sure you want to share this information marked as private?” prior to it going public, helping their user to understand the difference, many of whom do not.

Storify could simply address the technical difficulties in separating public from private, and maybe even throw it back on Facebook, but rather chose to blame the user, which history has proven is never a good public relations move.


Storify of Storify’s ability to publish private Facebook updates

Vernon compiled community reactions regarding the original story, including her interactions with Herman. It is lengthy and in-depth, so click “Read More” at the bottom right to load more updates:

Lani is the Chief Operating Officer at The American Genius and sister news outlet, The Real Daily, and has been named in the Inman 100 Most Influential Real Estate Leaders several times, co-authored a book, co-founded BASHH and Austin Digital Jobs, and is a seasoned business writer and editorialist with a penchant for the irreverent.

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9 Comments

9 Comments

  1. Amy McCloskey Tobin

    January 21, 2013 at 6:45 am

    This statement says it all: “Private is posting solely to yourself,” Like most PR disasters, there is a streak of the “inane” running through them. Storify’s response is stupefying; no one is buying it.

  2. KatyTorgov

    January 21, 2013 at 5:30 pm

    So you can notify users who’s public content was mentioned in a story about it on Twitter, e.g. “You’ve been quoted in my #Storify story…” but you cannot notify those whose private Facebook content is used in a Storify?

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How to quickly make your LinkedIn profile stand out from the masses

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Most of us have a love/hate relationship with LinkedIn, but no matter your feelings, you should be the one who stands out in a crowd – here’s how.

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Your LinkedIn is your brand. That’s it. Whether you are job hunting (or people are hunting you), or are showing off your business, insight, acumen, or simply networking; your profile on LinkedIn needs to stay appealing and not drive potential headhunters, bosses, clients, or networking groups bananas.

Let’s start with a three part list of what you MUST do, what you SHOULD do, and what you COULD do.

Here’s what you MUST DO (as in, do it now).

  1. Get a #GREAT LinkedIn photo. Nothing sells you like the right profile picture. No selfies. No mountain biking. Get a professional headshot. Don’t lie about your age. Wear what you wear when you’re on the job. Smile. People are visual.
  2. Simplify your profile. Cut the buzzwords. Cut out excess skills that don’t add to your vision or that don’t represent the kind of job you want. (i.e. most of us can use Outlook but few of us need to mention that skill because we don’t support Outlook). Focus on the skills that are important.
  3. Keep it current. Your LinkedIn should reflect your career and current responsibilities. Update the description. Add new projects. Change your groups as you change in your career and move towards new levels. Indicate when you receive a promotion.
  4. Extra, Extra! Headlines. Don’t use something lame for your headline. How would you want to catch a headhunter to look at you if you could only say 10 words? Make it standout. There are thousands of managers – but only one you.
  5. Custom URL. Just do it. Pick your own URL. It’s FREEEEEEE.
  6. Get the app. Make LinkedIn a part of your mobile life and check it more often than you do Snapchat.

Here’s what you SHOULD DO (Set aside some time at Starbucks and go do this in the next month).

  1. Tell your story. Your summary should bring to live the content of your career. Don’t leave that section blank. Spend some time crafting a cool story. Run it by your professional mentor. Send it to your English major friends.
  2. Connect. Add colleagues. Add partners from other organizations. Use connections to broaden your network. Synch your profile with your address book. Add people after a conference.
  3. Endorse your connections. Identify people you’ve worked with and give them the endorsements – which can get them to come endorse you!
  4. Ask for recommendations. Ask a colleague, partner, or manager to write you a recommendation to help advertise your skills.
  5. Add a nice cover photo. Again, visual people. Some more on that here.

Here’s what you COULD DO (If you’re feeling dedicated, what you can do to give yourself an extra edge.)

  1. Share your media. Upload presentations, videos, speeches, or projects that you can share. (Don’t violate company policy though!).
  2. Publish original content. LinkedIn has a vibrant publishing feature and sharing your original work (or content you’ve published elsewhere) is a great way to share your voice.
  3. Post status updates. Share your reactions. Share articles. Repost from influencers. Be active and keep your feed vibrant.

That’s a quick list to get started. So go start your LinkedIn makeover (and I’ll go do the same). Let’s get connected!

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Innovative widget places Instagram Stories right on your website

(SOCIAL MEDIA NEWS) Increase your social media reach with this neat new free to use Instagram Stories widget for your company website or personal portfolio site.

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Instagram Stories are a great way to integrate video into your marketing strategy. If you’re already investing time and money in this successful strategy, might as well feature Stories on your website too, right?

Well lucky you, Fastory recently released a free widget to add Instagram Stories directly to your site to feature your nifty marketing efforts on desktop. Even though mobile is still dominant with younger generations, desktop users need some love and access to Stories, too.

Fastory CEO Sylvain Weber noted the “widget is the only one fully based on the brand new Instagram Graph API (no private API, validated by Facebook himself).” This pretty much means Fastory is ahead of the game with the newly opened up API, and are basically development pioneers.

Drive awareness and build loyalty by spreading the wonder of your Instagram Stories far and wide with the Stories Widget. Simply log in to Facebook to get the widget, then sync your Instagram Stories stream.

Next, all you have to do is copy the provided HTML code and paste it on your website. Hooray, now you have a widget that automatically updates your website with your latest Stories.

Keep in mind you’ll need an Instagram Business Account for this to work.

If you have more than one business Instagram linked to Facebook Pages, just select the one you want to use from the drop-down menu when getting the widget code.

You can continue that process to select multiple Instagram accounts and generate widget codes for each of them.

Free for a limited time, you can also utilize the Memories feature, keeping a collection of your Instagram Stories on your site instead of having them disappear after twenty-four hours like usual.

All the Stories featured on your site also include a “follow us” button to encourage user engagement and gain you more followers.

Looking for help jazzing up your Instagram Stories? Fastory was originally created as an easy to use design platform to create and customize Stories.

Their mobile-first marketing suite offers drag & drop design featuring animated headlines crafted in Adobe After Effects, fonts from Google Web Fonts, and motion design.

Story creation and editing is collaborative with varying roles and levels of privileges. Plus, you can track visitors in real time to identify drop off points and areas for improvement. Contact Fastory for Story creation pricing information.

And on the free end of things, check out the Instagram Story Widget.

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Turns out the secret to brand success on Instagram is Stories

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Instagram is a marketing heaven, and Stories appear to be they key to success (even if they disappear in 24 hours). Let’s discuss.

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It’s been over a year since Instagram (or “Insta” as the cool kids call it) launched their Stories feature. And while Instagram Stories may not seem like most obvious place for advertising your business, social media experts say that it has untapped potential as a marketing tool.

The seemingly biggest drawback of using Stories for marketing is that, taking a cue from Snapchat, Instagram Stories are only online for 24 hours, then they disappear forever.

Nonetheless, the analysts at Socialbakers say that businesses should seriously consider marketing via Stories. These experts looked at over 1,000 Instagram accounts from businesses and found that they are being underutilized as a marketing tool.

Stories are extremely popular amongst viewers. There are 300 million active users looking at Stories every day, and that number hasn’t stopped growing since Instagram launched the feature.

Stories also appear at the very top of a user’s feed – although we’re still not exactly sure how Instagram’s algorithms sort these posts.

It’s also important to note that users can’t “like” or leave comments on Stories, so you won’t be able to use these metrics to gauge the success of your Stories marketing. Instead, you’ll have to look at Total Impressions, which tells you how many people have seen your story, or Reach, which tells you how many brand new potential customers saw your story.

With social media platforms always changing their rules and algorithms, it’s getting harder and harder to reach new potential customers, especially without dishing out cash for paid or boosted ads. Stories is a great loophole that allows you to connect with your audience without paying for it.

Don’t get caught up thinking you have to make a high-production video. Short, rough-cut, unpolished videos work great for Stories and give your audience a behind-the-scenes view of your business. Stories can be utilized to tell the story of your brand. And you can even add a poll to your story to increase engagement. For example, Red Bull asks viewers which picture they should post next, keeping the user engaged and clicking.

Social media platforms are always changing, but your business can get an edge over your competitors by staying up-to-date with new formats and features.

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